Build upper body muscle and increase your metabolism with only six exercises

This weighted workout will help you to grow upper body muscle, boost your metabolism, and burn fat

Man performing a dumbbell row over a gym bench
(Image credit: Getty)

Working out with weights is a great way to burn calories and a resistance session has the potential to keep your metabolism raised for up to 48 hours after exercise. Building muscle has many benefits and isn't all about bulking, and this six-move upper body routine is a great place to start if you're looking to build lean muscle mass.

There are lots of options when it comes to what weight you can build muscle with. Some people like to mix it up with different resistance machines and weights at the gym meanwhile others keep it simple and will use one of the best adjustable dumbbells to resistance train at home without using up lots of space.

For this upper body routine led by fitness trainer and co-founder of the EvolveYou (opens in new tab) workout app, Krissy Cela (opens in new tab), a barbell and some dumbbells are required. In the dumbbells vs barbells debate, both are great pieces of strength-building equipment and which you choose will depend on what your goal is.

When it comes to training the upper body, dumbbells suit a range of chest, shoulder, arm, and back exercises. Fortunately, you can easily complete this full routine from Cela using just a set of dumbbells.

You will be working with sets of repetitions for all six exercises so make sure you allocate rest periods between each set. When you give yourself breaks between sets it helps your muscles to keep up good levels of force production ahead of the next round of reps.

Watch Krissy Cela's Six-Move Upper Body Workout

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Lifting weight puts a strain on your muscles breaking them down and they respond by building more muscle cells to recover and sustain more load being placed on them. The new cells need energy and burn more calories than fat cells do, even while your body is in rest mode.

Maintaining muscle mass can lead to an improved metabolic rate and is why resistance training wins in the cardio vs weights: which is better for weight loss debate. Keeping your resistance training workouts varied and challenging will help keep your metabolism nice and high. 

For example, you can adopt progressive overload into your training so that you are moving up weight but lowering the reps for a period of time to allow further muscle growth and avoid a plateau in making progress. The harder your weight training becomes, the more calories you can burn during and after your workouts.

It's worthwhile noting that boosting your metabolism isn't just down to exercise. Everyday things like sleep and diet can massively affect your metabolism as well. A study published in the Journal of Lipid Research (opens in new tab) revealed that lack of sleep can negatively impact the body's ability to convert fat to energy. 

Moreover, consuming a high protein diet alongside your exercise regime and good sleep pattern can help to boost your metabolism. Your body burns more calories while trying to absorb and digest protein as opposed to carbohydrates.

It's best to source this from lean sources of protein such as Greek yogurt, beans, salmon, tofu, and lentils but you can always top things up with one of the best protein powders for weight loss.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 


When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.